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English Premier League: Power Rankings and Predictions Gameweek 23

Dan RenfroCorrespondent IIIJanuary 10, 2011

English Premier League: Power Rankings and Predictions Gameweek 23

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    It's been a while since I've had enough time to publish my power rankings with my predictions. Fortunately, I have had plenty of time this week, but after looking at the table, a lot of questions remain.

    Manchester United are in first with two games in hand, which has to make them the current favorite. Still, will they be able to keep their position? Will this finally be the year Manchester City breaks through? Who will end up getting relegated? Who's going to make the big transfer?

    Many questions. No real answers. The only way is to attempt to sort it all out piece by piece.

    Let's get to it!

20. Aston Villa

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    Last Six: L W L L D L (Four Points)

    Okay, Aston Villa aren't as good as originally thought, but there is no way they are this bad, is there? James Milner left, and the squad has been in free fall since.

    They have conceded at least two goals in eight out of their last 10 games, which is positively embarrassing. Their meager one win on the road this year is worst in the league—also embarrassing.

    For a while, it looked like Villa would be playing for pride, but now it looks like they are going to be playing for their Premiership lives. It's hard to believe Villa not playing in the Premier League, but if they do not start winning, they will not be able to escape the bottom three.

19. West Ham

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Last Six: L D W D W L (Eight Points)

    With eight points in their last six games, the Hammers are playing well. For them especially, they are playing exceptionally well! Unfortunately, they only had 12 points in the previous 16 games, so they are still last on the table.

    They have been successful lately, and if they continue this consistent play, West Ham will be able to remain in the top flight. If not, well, they had a good run, right?

18. Wolverhampton Wanderers

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    Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

    Last Six: L W L W L W (Nine Points)

    The best way to climb out of the relegation zone is to win. A lot of teams take moral victories out of draws, but Wolves has only tied once since September.

    Obviously, draws would be better than losses, but by winning three out of their last five, Wolves have escaped the relegation zone, but that position isn't permanent. If they start to earn more points on the road, they should be able to avoid relegation.

    Nevertheless, I wouldn't get my hopes up quite yet. With three of their next five matches against the top three, Wolves could fall back into the relegation zone; however, if they can steal a point or two (and win their other two matches), they will have plenty of confidence heading into an easier part of their schedule.

17. West Bromwich Albion

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Last Six: W L L L L L (Three Points)

    The Baggies have been up and down all year, and right now they find themselves on a downturn. Unfortunately, it is a pretty big downturn. They are losers of five straight (seven of their last nine matches), which is why they have fallen so far on the table.

    Obviously, a couple wins would bring them back to the middle, but they haven't looked competitive for over a month now. Five of their next six matches are winnable, and Albion need to respond with victories.

    In the second half of the season, each match is meaningful, and the toughest teams find ways to get the late go-ahead/equalizing goal as needed. If the Baggies wish to remain in the top flight, they are going to have to show some serious toughness and start winning matches.

16. Wigan Athletic

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Last Six: D D W D L D (Seven Points)

    The Latics have only lost once since November. Wait, what?!? Wigan has gone over a month with only one loss? Wow, good for them, right? Unfortunately, they still find themselves in the relegation zone.

    So what do they need to do to actually escape the bottom three? Win at home. It's as simple as that. Ten points on the road is admirable, but only 11 points at home is pitiful (not to mention second worst in the league). They have only two wins at DW Stadium, which is not a good recipe for a squad trying to avoid relegation.

    They have the ability to escape relegation; it is just a matter of them living up to their potential.

15. Birmingham City

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Last Six: D D L D L W (Six Points)

    Birmingham City have been incredibly tough at home, but that hasn't turned into many points. They have almost twice as many draws at home as wins, which has prevented them from hanging around the middle of the table.

    If they start turning their draws into victories, they shouldn't have any problems avoiding relegation; however, if they do not start winning matches, they will be fighting to avoid relegation until season's end.

    That being said, I don't think a squad as tough as this will drop from the Premiership.

14. Liverpool

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Last Six: L W L L W L (Six Points)

    Okay, so maybe Liverpool weren't as good as people expected heading into the season. But are they truly a bottom half team? While I don't think so, they haven't done much to prove otherwise. They have a negative goal differential, they have only five points on the road and the manager is now gone.

    From here, I expect one of two things to happen. Either the team will finally realize its potential and make a run at a Champions League spot or the team will slowly sink further away from the top six, eventually escaping relegation by a narrow margin.

    I would love to predict one way or the other, but I have learned my lesson when Liverpool are concerned. They play by their own rules, and there is no definitive way of determining what they will ultimately do. Still, it is advisable to watch this squad because anything can happen.

13. Fulham

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Last Six: L D L W L W (Seven Points)

    Despite not winning on a consistent basis, Fulham haven't lost consecutive games since October. Consequently, they have not seen their position worsen. Unfortunately, without winning, they have not been able to climb out of the relegation battle.

    Their last four games will all be tough, so the next month will be of chief importance for them to remain in the top flight. Climbing into the top half of the table may be a stretch, which is exactly why the Cottagers need to focus on avoiding relegation first.

12. Blackburn

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Last Six: L D L W L W (Seven Points)

    The Rovers have played well this year, but as a whole, they are not satisfied. As a result, they are attempting to make a move in the transfer window.

    They have already made offers on stars (washed-up as they may be) such as David Beckham and Ronaldinho, proving that the front office is not satisfied with a ninth-place position. Unfortunately, neither of those stars would help their actual need: defense.

    They have conceded the fourth most goals in the Premiership, and if they have serious aspirations for climbing the table, they need to start playing defense. If not, the Rovers need to get used to the middle of the table.

11. Everton

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Last Six: D D W D L W (Nine Points)

    It's tough to figure out Everton. They have been good at times (victories of Manchester City, Spurs plus a draw against Manchester United) and they have been bad at times (a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of West Brom, only one two-match winning streak and only 23 goals in 21 matches).

    So which team is the real Everton? It's tough to say, but I would lean more towards the good. They have had trouble scoring, but their stout defense will always keep them in matches, allowing them to have a chance of defeating better teams.

    I think they are probably stuck in the middle of the table for the rest of the year, but they have a very good chance of playing spoiler for any team with title aspirations.

10. Stoke City

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Last Six: D L W L W L (Seven Points)

    Stoke City has had some problems this year, but they are an extremely dangerous team.

    Try to follow this: Take away their three-game losing streak to start the season AND take away their four-game losing streak at the end of October/beginning of November, and they have 27 points in 14 games. That's astounding. Unfortunately for them, those other seven matches count.

    For their remaining matches, they have the tougher teams at home and easier teams on the road, which could cause them some problems. I don't think they'll have any problems avoiding relegation, but a climb into the top six is becoming more and more distant.

9. Blackpool

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    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Last Six: W D W W L L (10 Points)

    Wait, aren't the Seasiders 13th on the table? Why so high in the rankings? Well, just look closer at their schedule and you'll know why.

    They have only played 19 games, which gives them an opportunity to make up ground in a hurry as they play those extra three games. They have the third most points on the road (17) behind Manchester City and Arsenal, which means they earn points when most teams (Manchester United anyone?) are unable.

    Okay, so they have an abysmal eight points at home, but how many games have they played at Bloomfield Road anyway? Answer: seven (as opposed to 12 games on the road).

    Granted, they still have to play Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea at home. While those games will all be tough, I have a great belief in Ian Holloway's ability to lead this squad to a top 10 finish.

8. Bolton

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    Clint Hughes/Getty Images

    Last Six: W L W L L D (Seven Points)

    Bolton, Bolton, Bolton (*shaking head sadly*). What happened? Wasn't December supposed to be their coming-out party? Where they proved to everyone that they were for real, right?

    Wrong. In seven games since December 4th, they lost to Manchester City, Chelsea, Sunderland and Liverpool. Notice how those losses slowly get less impressive?

    Now it's apparent: The Wanderers aren't as good as they were playing. That's fine, but what does that mean for the squad? It means that Johan Elmander & Co. are going to have to be satisfied without a Champions League spot.

7. Newcastle United

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    Last Six: L W L L W W (Nine Points)

    So Newcastle has been up and down all year, right? So when does the roller coaster level out? To be honest, I don't think it ever will. This team was in the Championship last year for a reason: inconsistency.

    By no means do I expect them to go back, but I don't think they will seriously challenge the top six this season. That being said, they have a good core group of players, and I believe they could potentially challenge the top six (maybe even the top four?) for many years to come.

6. Sunderland

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Last Six: D W L L W W (10 Points)

    The Black Cats are currently sixth on the table, and they are tied for fifth on the form table. So are they for real? It's tough to say, but I'm leaning towards yes. Maybe it's because I love watching them play, but still!

    So what if they have the 13th best offense in the league? They have the fourth best defense! So what if they only have 11 points on the road? They have 22 points at the Stadium of Light! The fact is, they win matches. At the end of the day, isn't that all that matters?

    I wouldn't be surprised if they passed Chelsea on the table in either of the next two weeks. Will they stay in the top five? That's yet to be seen, but nothing would surprise me from this squad.

5. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Last Six: D D W W W L (11 Points)

    Just when you think Spurs are going to start keeping pace with the top three teams, they lose to Everton. Granted, Everton aren't a bad squad, but a team aspiring for a title should go into Goodison Park and come out with AT LEAST one point. Tottenham Hotspur was unable to do so, which has me questioning them.

    I don't think they'll have much trouble finishing in the top six (top four will be a little tougher), but when will that no longer be good enough?

    They are in talks to bring David Beckham (who is already training with them) to London on loan, but the Los Angeles Galaxy aren't excited to let him go in case of another injury. They know he is their biggest draw (Landon Donovan?), so they are not going to give him up easily, but his presence would help Spurs tremendously.

    With his leadership and experience, the Spurs have an outside chance of winning the title. If he doesn't come to play, they'll have to be satisfied with a top four finish.

4. Chelsea

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Last Six: D D L W D L (Six Points)

    I can't even write about the defending champs anymore. They are only this high on the power rankings because of their tremendous start. Take away those first seven matches, and the Blues only have 17 points in 14 games. That's a great ratio...if you're trying to avoid relegation.

    They have lost their swagger, clutch play and seemingly every match since October (10 points, minus-eight GD in that stretch).

    For most teams, they have nowhere to go but down. For an aging defending champion, they really have no place (or option) to go other than up.

3. Arsenal

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Last Six: W L W D W D (11 Points)

    The Gunners just can't seem to get over that hump. A win over Manchester City would have put them in second place and only two points short of United. Instead, they were unable to finish and had to settle for a frustrating draw.

    I don't see them falling out of the top three at any point this season, but they definitely need to find a way to win games like that against City. They should cruise into March without losing many games and pressuring United at the top. Still, I emphasize the word SHOULD.

2. Manchester City

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Last Six: W L W W W D (13 Points)

    Slowly but surely, Manchester City has begun to prove that they are for real. I'm not entirely sold on them yet, but any team that defends as well as them always has a chance to win.

    They always had Carlos Tevez up top, but now they have transferred in Bosnian star Edin Dzeko. He scored 66 goals in 111 Bundesliga (Germany) matches. Will that success transfer to the EPL? Maybe not, but any team that has one player scoring over a third of their goals is looking anywhere for help.

    As long as they don't lay an egg, they could potentially go eight matches without a loss before the Manchester derby, where the champions may be crowned.

1. Manchester United

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Last Six: W W W D W W (16 Points)

    Everyone done doubting United? Just when it looked like they were going to be scrapping all season for the top spot, they are two points clear with two games in hand. No one appears to be in their class (yet again), and Sir Alex Ferguson knows better than to let the foot off the pedal (Burnley ring a bell, United fans?).

    Their road woes should mean more, but they simply don't. At Old Trafford, they beat teams down. On the road, they dominate teams before something goes wrong and the match ends in a draw.

    Until they lose a league match (Could it actually be this week against Spurs? Never mind, sorry for doubting again, Sir Alex, please forgive me), I sure won't be betting against the Red Devils.

Predictions

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    Jan. 12

    Blackpool 2 Liverpool 1

    Jan. 15

    Chelsea 2 Blackburn 0

    Manchester City 2 Wolves 0

    Stoke City 2 Bolton 1

    West Brom 1 Blackpool 2

    Wigan 1 Fulham 0

    West Ham 1 Arsenal 3

    Jan. 16

    Birmingham City 2 Aston Villa 0

    Sunderland 2 Newcastle United 1

    Liverpool 0 Everton 1

    Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester United 2

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